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Published May 28, 2010, 07:02 PM

Haugen Fraud Case: Bail Set at $500,000

Ross Haugen made his first court appearance Friday in Walsh County on 50 felony counts, including theft, securities fraud and acting as an unregistered agent.

Ross Haugen made his first court appearance Friday in Walsh County on 50 felony counts, including theft, securities fraud and acting as an unregistered agent.

Haugen is a former Grand Forks stockbroker accused of defrauding people in Walsh County of nearly $3.5 million dollars.

Barb Whelan/Walsh County State's Attorney: "As far as the danger to the community..."

The state recommended that Ross Haugen's bail be set at $3 million dollars, but Haugen's defense attorney, Steven Meshbesher argued it be lowered.

Steven Meshbesher/Haugen's Defense Attorney: "In the North Dakota constitution under declaration of rights, Article 1 Section 11 excessive bail shall not be required."

Meshbesher negotiated Haugen's bond down to $500,000 dollars cash. Haugen's wife and two daughters were in the courtroom at Friday's hearing, at times visibly weeping and upset during the proceedings. Nearby, some of the elderly people who claim to be the victims of the $3.5 million fraud also sat and watched.

Barb Whelan/Walsh County State's Attorney: "In terms of commission off of those it was like $1.2 million, so he's a man who deals in large sums of money."

Walsh County State's Attorney Barb Whelan says the state has a good paper trail to show that Haugen lied to investors about what he did with their money, and that he spent it instead of investing it.

Barb Whelan/Walsh County State's Attorney: "What we are talking about here is an individual who is preying upon and taking advantage of for the most part vulnerable and elderly people."

But Haugen's attorney says his client is not a criminal but rather a victim in the scheme.

Steven Meshbesher/Haugen's Defense Attorney: "He doesn't have access to large amounts of money. He is defending himself because he's not guilty."

Meshbesher says the real criminal is a man who owns a business in Florida, where Haugen deposited money.

Steven Meshbesher/Haugen's Defense Attorney: "He took the money. Not Mr. Haugen. Mr. Haugen never received the money. He just gave him access to the money. Mr. Hampton took it, and the state claims he's going to be their witness."

Meshbesher says the defense may be back in court soon to request a change in the half million dollars bail set today.

If convicted, Haugen faces a maximum of 505 years in jail, $55,000 dollars in fines, and $655 dollars for each count for court costs.

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